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  • Question 1:

    Within the first few months of your new term as County Commissioner, you will begin preparing the County’s budget for the next fiscal year. How would you address the structural budget deficit for the FY16 budget and going forward?

    District 1 Candidate Responses

    Britten “Leo” Martin, Libertarian
    The County does not have a 'structural budget deficit.' Structural deficits occur only if there is deficit spending. Deficit spending is illegal in Maryland. This term has been used by current elected elected officials and some staff members to hide poor financial management.

    Larry Tichnell, Republican
    I have already begun the process of reviewing the county budget as it now stands.  While it is easy to say we are going to cut back on capital expenses, delay expenses and reduce county government, this budget has been strained for some years now since the economic decline of 2008.  Although I see signs of our economy growing again, there will still be a period of formidable challenges to producing a balanced budget that is fair to everyone.    I believe that we need to look for increased revenue sources not associated with higher taxes.


  • District 2 Candidate Responses

    Paul Edwards, Republican
    I will work with department heads, finance, and my partner commissioners to thoroughly analyze where cuts can occur and where additional revenues can be found.  I, nor any of the other commissioners, will be in a position to unilaterally do anything, so we must all work together to put forth a responsible and responsive budget.  This is how I have approached budgeting in the Town of Grantsville and it has produced great results.  The key is to work together and to not be afraid to make tough choices that ultimately benefit everyone.


  • District 2 Candidate Responses

    Paul Edwards, Republican

    I think the simplest thing that we can do that doesn’t cost any additional money is to make it policy to allow the BOE to keep carryover money automatically.  This incentivizes fiscal responsibility because savings (which were already budgeted to the BOE) can be used to continue the mission of educating our kids.  I think open and honest communication will go a long way in creating a better working relationship between these two entities.


  • District 3 Candidate Responses

    Robert “Bob” Gatto, Write-in Republican

    Student Focus is the key in discussing Education oppurtunities as well as including GCC in that discussion. We have to finally get everyone to sit down and figure out the best way to deliver education in Garrett County. and we can only do that by planning and looking forward.I believe we all know the challenges such as Cirriculum,unfounded mandates,declining enrollments,weather ,travel,community concerns,needed facility and capital inprovements.We will also have new faces on both boards and I believe I have been able to build trust and respect to help advance these efforts.

    April Hebden, Democrat

    I am a product of the Garrett County School system, I have a daughter in fifth grade; experiencing the challenges of the school system.  Promoting education must be a top priority; success in this area improves results in most other areas from school and socioeconomic success to lowering crime, and reducing costs of education.

    I’m in favor of universal Pre K and reducing school overcrowding.  Increases in homeschooling, related to overcrowding, must be reexamined as it has “cause and effect”impacts on school populations and the availability of state funds. 

    You have the same commitment I made earlier; thoroughly examine the

    Jim Hinebaugh, Republican

    The incoming Board of County Commissioners should meet with Board of Education members immediately after assuming office and appoint a joint committee to develop a 5-year strategic plan to address known and anticipated challenges.  This process could include the use of a third party professional facilitator.  The Board of County Commissioners should provide the BOE a budget planning figure in advance of the BOE budget process.  A 5 year budget plan would allow for better long term planning and decision making.  This approach would help preclude unfunded obligations and the associated budget shortfalls.

    James “Smokey” Stanton, Unaffiliated

    The “cooperative relationship” was more apparent than actual. Commissioners abdicated fiduciary responsibilities by not requiring BoE budgets to be subject to a public review and by BoC’s deferring to staff on budget decisions. (FY15 is the first time the BoE presented its budget to the BoC). Regular meetings between the two elected Boards can establish a true working relationship that is based on accurate and verifiable data and financial information to/from both Boards.  Maryland’s “wealth formula” study will not be concluded until 2016; it is essential both Boards cooperate to obtain as much interim Maryland education assistance as possible.

    Bill Welch, Libertarian

    Work with the school board to obtain more local control of all aspects of the system. Spending doubled in the years 25% of students fled the system. The road back to fiscal sanity is probably going to be a hard road. Ideally the county and the school board would work together. Given the quality of administration on both sides of the equation, my thinking is changes are needed to upgrade relations.


  • District 3 Candidate Responses

    Robert “Bob” Gatto, Write-in Republican
    The deficit has been reduced by an improved number in Income Tax revenue as well as a reduction in the Counties share for the Teachers Pension that was incorrect on the States estimated Chart. The other possibility that should help to increase revenues is the 4 mile Ridge Wind Turbine Project being brought on line for FY 16. But I believe the best way to start the Budget process is to do a complete SWOT analysis (Strengths,Weaknesses,Oppurtunities and Threats) of every Department or agency that receives funds through our Budget.and also review revenue trends going forward.

    April Hebden, Democrat
    I have already committed to a thorough budget review and exploring and implementing reforms in the administration and management of the budget, risks, and related processes to avoid increases in property taxes and assessments.

    Excessive spending must be addressed as we need to be more efficient and operate within the budget.   Processes, functions, tasks, and time management studies are needed to reexamine and redefine assignments for efficiency and effectiveness.Reforms will be needed.

    Jim Hinebaugh, Republican
    The County should realize approximately $1,900,000 in additional revenue in FY16 (two new wind farms coming on-line, anticipated real estate tax base growth, and revised income tax projections).  This should cover the $1,700,000 FY15 deficit.  Plus, the County has a $3,500,000 Rainy Day Fund and a $5,000,000 reserve.  Additionally, both gubernatorial candidates propose restoring highway user fees.  Given this situation, the new Board should not rush into major budget initiatives in its first year, but focus on reducing/minimizing operating expenses where possible.  The Board should take a longer term (5 year) view rather than opt for a short/one year patch.

    James “Smokey” Stanton, Unaffiliated
    As a fiscal conservative, my review of the annual operating budgets and the “Financial Report(s)” indicate the deficit (revenue decrease from triennial assessment cycle, CYT, county pension obligations, long term debt, etc) is already negatively impacting the operating budget. Further, the summary budget(s) does not give a true statement of the financial posture of the County. Management of the structural deficit must minimally include: development of a transparent FY16 chart of accounts to determine true revenues and expenses, calculation of the true deficit(s), and immediate steps to rebalance the budget to manage the FY16 operating budget and structural deficits.

    Bill Welch, Libertarian
    The first thing to do is evaluate administrative proposals for FY16. How that is done depends on whether another commissioner supports arm's length professional analysis. Either way the public shall be informed every step of the way and then heard in advance of final decisions. I do not rule out cutting costs where there is a second vote for doing that.  Going forward my plan is professional planning (full public disclosure), valid (measurable) action, and investing in high return infrastructure (e.g. broadband) to expand the tax base by expanding the middle class.




  • Question 2:

    What specific action would you take or strategies would you recommend to stimulate the business climate in Garrett County to help grow businesses and create jobs?

    District 1 Candidate Responses

    Britten “Leo” Martin, Libertarian
    Cut the real estate tax rate, reduce the size of government, and work to return the County to providing essential services. No concrete ditches, no swimming pools, and no unused exhibit centers.

    Larry Tichnell, Republican
    The economic development office has been working hard to create opportunities for businesses that are here and may choose to relocate here.  Local workers are already benefiting from the growth of energy-based initiatives, such as the Casselman Mine, windmills and the expansion of the shale industry in surrounding states.  The development of broadband capabilities to attract technology business is being pursued, and I would support continued expansion.  These businesses pay well and are environmentally friendly.  We need to continue recruitment of businesses to our industrial parks and market the county as a wonderful place to “work, live and play.”


  • District 2 Candidate Responses

    Paul Edwards, Republican

    Again, as a team we need to look at making it easier to do business in our county.  We need to stress  ‘customer service’ to our department heads when working with business owners and/or potential business owners, craft localized incentive plans to cater to the types of businesses we want to attract, and work with Economic Development to market all of our assets.  We also need to engage our businesses that are already here and see what we can do to help them grow and succeed, as well.


  • District 3 Candidate Responses

    Robert “Bob” Gatto, Write-in Republican

    Continue to work with our State and Federal partners to improve the infrastructure needs in Transportation, Broadband and Business park infrastructure. Identify and certify our workforce strengths for Business recruitment/ retention.Continue to Partner with Education to improve workforce Developement through training oppurtunities in careers that show oppurtunities in Our area and region. Continue to work and build on Energy and Agri Business possibilities both as employment oppurtunities and as producers. Think more Futuristic as well as Regional in our approaches to help identify and build new revenue sources while at the same time helping those who have already invested in

    April Hebden, Democrat

    More opportunities for citizens input and transparencies are needed.  Good inclusive governance that is responsive and accountable can increase sustainable growth, enhancing the business environment. 

    My constituents are in favor of a ban on gas fracking, establishing a more favorable climate for visitors, recreation, business, and agricultural efforts, eliminating the negative impacts. 

    Improved and modernized infrastructures, internet, roads, and buildings are important. Good strategies here will also increase our standard of living.  Don’t raise taxes, increase government efficiency, and make needed reforms.

    Promoting education will help our economy grow; increase the success of businesses and the types of jobs attracted


    Jim Hinebaugh, Republican

    Garrett County has a relatively good business climate – given Maryland’s regulatory and tax policies.  Most job growth (80%) comes from existing businesses, so the County needs to work with local businesses and the Chamber to reduce barriers to growth.  For example, one of the biggest overall impediments to economic growth is workforce availability.  Given our demographics, this will be an ongoing challenge.  The County must work with local businesses and seek expert advice on how to address this challenge.  Concurrently, the County should continue to support robust marketing efforts by the Chamber and Economic Development.

     James “Smokey” Stanton, Unaffiliated

    We are ideally located to diversify our local economy and leverage our strengths in recreation, agriculture, retail, and other areas as the US recovers from the Great Recession. We can develop good paying jobs that attract and retain young and young families.  I have proposed my ”Five-Point Plan for Garrett County Jobs” with five strategic actions to stimulate economic and job development: 1.Establish Garrett County “Promise Zones; 2. Countywide internet / broadband; 3. Enterprise center expansion; 4. Industry recruitment; and 5. Reorganize and refocus current efforts. The 2 page “Five-Point Plan for Garrett County Jobs can be viewed at: http://www.stanton2014.org/docs/fivepointplan.pdf

     Bill Welch, Libertarian

    Move to declare attracting jobs paying middle class jobs the county’s number one official priority. That almost certainly means attracting tech employers. Garrett County is an ideal location for tech firms for reasons familiar to those used promoting tourism at the expense of community schools. Within ten years of county government partnering in fiber optics, dozens of tech businesses will pay middle class wages, and county government will get somewhere around a million a year in usage fees instead of paying to support white elephants.




  • Question 3:

    The financial challenges of Garrett County Schools have strained the previously cooperative relationship between the Board of Education and County Commission. Please outline a plan to remedy this situation while keeping expenditures in check and maintaining a student focus.


  • District 1 Candidate Responses

    Britten “Leo” Martin, Libertarian

    The Commissioners have no control over how the Board of Education spends allocated funds. There is no remedy until state law is changed to correct this situation. No one in their right mind would be spending 85% of a budget on salaries and benefits. The Board of Education does. That leaves 15% for the students.

    Larry Tichnell, Republican

    Education for our children through 2 years of college is a major concern.  We have to look at ways to reach an accommodation which protects our school system and minimizes the automatic yearly increases in the school budget.  We need to work closely with the state officials to make sure state funding formulas are appropriate.  We need a cohesive plan for advising our children beginning in middle school of educational opportunities here.  The robotics programs in the county and the development of the STEM program at Garrett College will go far in helping to develop a workforce for the future.